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China brewers eye Hong Kong Kingway’s beer assets – source

* China Resources, Tsingtao, Yanjing among suitors - source
* Kingway shares up 3.2 pct at three-week high

Chinese brewers including China Resources Enterprise Ltd and Tsingtao Brewery Co Ltd are among potential suitors eyeing bids for the brewery operations of Hong Kong-listed Kingway Brewery Holdings Ltd, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday.

"Many mainland brewers are interested in the assets including CR Snow, Tsingtao, Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co Ltd and Guangzhou Zhujiang Brewery Co Ltd," said a source close to the company, declining to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the matter. "Many of them have asked for supplementary information. Nothing has been finalised yet."

Kingway, a smaller rival of CR Snow, said in January that it planned to invite beer producers to submit proposals and indicative offers for the possible acquisition of some of its brewery business and assets, as the company reviewed its strategy in uncertain economic conditions.

China's largest brewer CR Snow is a joint venture between China Resources and SABMiller Plc.

In April last year, Kingway Brewery said GDH Ltd, a unit of state-backed Guangdong Holdings Ltd, had exercised the right to buy the 21.37 percent stake held by a Heineken NV joint venture in China, blocking a bid from China Resources. GDH would buy the stake for 1.08 billion yuan ($164.94 million), increasing its holding to 73.82 percent.

Kingway was previously jointly controlled by Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd (APB), a unit of Singapore food and property conglomerate Fraser and Neave Ltd, and the world's third-largest brewer Heineken.

Shares of Kingway, which has a market capitalisation of about $570 million, rose 3.2 percent on Monday afternoon, the highest in three weeks.

The world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev SA had also expressed interest in buying the assets, Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the situation. The report added that bids were due by the third week of February and several parties had expressed interest in buying the assets.

China Resources, whose beer brands include Snow, and Kingway declined comment. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Tsingtao were not immediately available for comment.

China's beer consumption hit 450 million hectolitres in 2010. It is expected to grow 5 percent per year in coming years, double the 2.5 percent growth forecast for the global market this year.

Chinese brewers are making an aggressive push into premium brands, lured by high margins and huge growth potential and posing a tough challenge to the foreign companies that dominate the category in the world's largest beer market.

14 Feb. 2012

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